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coverpic flag England - Full Moon 203 - 03/27/13

Robyn Hitchcock
Love From London
Yep Roc Records

Our dear Robyn turned 60 years young earlier this moonth. He has been a recording artist for almost 36 of them, with the Soft Boys, solo and his own bands like The Egyptians and Venus 3. And he still manages to surprise; this time in a pleasant way. Love From London must rank among his most playful and popful musings, ever. Both songs, arrangements and production seem more pop-oriented than the usual guitar-/rock approach of a Hitchcock album; even more so than on its predecessor, Tromsø Kaptein. Harmonic pop gems on a string. As last time Jenny Adejayan's cello is a vital part of the sound, now along with pianos, organs and haunting female vocal harmonies. The piano of "Harry's Song" that opens the album sounds definitely English and attacks the spine instantly. As beautiful classic piano-dominated chamber pop as can be! And there are lots more. "Strawberry Dress" is elegantly half-way laid-back with a half-way dynamic cello and that Hitchcock voice at its best somewhere in between John Lennon's and Syd Barrett's. "Death & Love" is another half-way laid-back goodie floating away on airy keyboards. "My Rain" has an exquisite interplay between Robyn's guitar, violin sounding keyboards and cello. "Be Still" starts as a typical mid-tempo guitar-driven song, but after a while the cello takes more and more over and turns the song, to some extent, into another elegant well-produced smooth pop-goodie. Mind, the production might be smooth, but never over-produced and slick. It's perfect organic pop, not mass-produced synthetic stuff aimed at the hit-lists.

Robyn the electric rock guitarist appears less often than we're used to. "I Love You" is one of three marked exceptions, but the cello here is more dominant and as distorted as the guitar. "Fix You" is another exception where Robyn's guitar and vocal John Lennon leanings shine through. Good to have a few fuzzy rockers to rip things a bit apart in between the perfect pop harmonies, too.

Although the music mainly sounds happy and fancy free, the lyrics are another matter. Mr. Hitchcock seems to follow the same path as another excellent English guitarist and songstyrteller, Richard Thompson, in this respect, only in a more surrealistic way: the merrier the music, the gloomier the lyrics. In the beautiful and slightly funky "Stupefied" for instance:

'Ain't no money on the ceiling
Ain't no ceiling on the floor
Got that terrifying feeling
You don't love me any more'

and later in the same song:

'Ain't no honey back in Norway
Ain't no kroner in your pants
Must have blown it in the doorway
On those sugar coated ants'

Let's hope this doesn't mean Robin's days in Norway are over for good. (Btw. kroner is the local currrency around here.) The cover paintings might suggest Robyn is on a quest againt capitalism. The front shows an evil(?) Resident'ish eye-figure holding a poster with the word BANK. At the back is a the gravestone of Karl Marx, also of a lady I don't recognise, from Highgate Cemetery in the love town. Well, Robyn seems more concerned about his personal matters after all: 'I'm so weak with you - I'm scared that you'll explode, Or walk away'.

In a less unjust world Love From London would've made it to the top of the pops! On his recent album titles, Robyn has also made it to Oslo and Tromsø. Wonder which town he'll visit next?

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You may also want to check out our Robyn Hitchcock articles/reviews: Black Snake Diamond Role, Man Upstairs, Tromsø, Kaptein.

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